Archive for September, 2017

Volunteer rescue workers help a woman from her home that was inundated with the flooding of Hurricane Harvey in Port Arthur.
Photo by Joe Raedle / Getty

I noted in my book The View From Down in Poordom that food banks in big urban centers have been unable to keep up with demands since the big crash of 2008.

The food banks in Houston and southeast Texas are about to be overwhelmed for a long time to come at a time when Congress wants more cuts to the SNAP program (food stamps).

I note in the book that SNAP benefits were cut sharply by Congress in the last major Farm Bill extension while farmers in Congress increased farm subsidies that dropped cash directly in their pockets.

Those cuts placed immediate pressure on food banks around the country to keep pace with demands from folks.

Now comes a Politico story out of Cleveland from whence comes this excerpt:

    Lawmakers are considering making $10 billion in mandatory cuts from agriculture programs over a decade, and anti-hunger groups expect most, if not all, of that could come from federal food stamp benefits, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Advocates fear it would only be the beginning. A separate — though far less likely — piece of the GOP budget calls for $150 billion in cuts to the program over the next decade.

    “We do a wonderful job, but SNAP feeds so many more people,” said Kristin Warzocha, CEO of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

Now that we’ve entered what might be called the Harvey Era in my beloved Texas, one has to wonder how so many Texans who are suddenly poor and homeless through no fault of their own will fare as they claw back to the comfort and security so many of them knew before Harvey.

Not to mention those who were poor and clawing to survive every day pre-Harvey.

Go here for the Politico story about the pressures on the food bank in Cleveland.

Today’s prayer is for all the Texans — the rich, the poor, the many and very many loved ones of mine — who are suffering from so many losses and so many anxieties about their futures in the wake of such unprecedented destruction as this.

    1 The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty;
    the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength;
    indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.

    2 Your throne was established long ago;
    you are from all eternity.

    3 The seas have lifted up, Lord,
    the seas have lifted up their voice;
    the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.

    4 Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
    mightier than the breakers of the sea—
    the Lord on high is mighty.

    5 Your statutes, Lord, stand firm;
    holiness adorns your house to pray for.
    — Psalm 93

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File this under “True story you won’t Belize.”

So last night I did my daily walking-jogging exercise thing and stopped in at the Chinese store to get some eggs and V8 for today’s breakfast and saw a Belizean guy who was one of the first people I befriended when I moved to the Mayan village of Succotz five years ago. He lived up in the bush and Succotz was the closest town to his nice house.

I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years. He’s a nice, 30-something man. He was a hard-working bricklayer. He comes from a well-to-do family from near Belmopan, the nation’s capital.

Actually, he was a little arrogant and full of himself, and I knew that a lot of Belizeans around the village didn’t like him. But he was always friendly and courteous to me and I never saw anything but his best side.

So I’ll call this friend Joe.

Joe had a nice pickup truck. Years ago he took me across the border to Melchor in Guatemala, where everything is so extremely cheap including beer and food, to shop and drink beer and eat.

Like so many Belizeans of any means, he lived and worked in the States a few years but came back to settle down and marry a nice woman he’d met through his sister back in Belmopan.

Last night we talked outside the store a while and I said we needed to go back to Melchor some Saturday like old times, even though I don’t drink anymore.

“I don’t drink anymore either,” he said. “I wish we could go though. I can’t go to Guatemala anymore.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“I’m still waiting for my trial and they took my passport from me.”

“Uh, what trial? What’d you do?”

“I stabbed a guy.”

(Picture me with my jaw dropping.)

“You stabbed a guy. Did you kill him?”


“What the %!#%, Joe! What happened?”

“I was pretty drunk.”

“No dude, you had to be ugly drunk.”

“I know,” Mr. Paul.

I asked about his wife and kids. She’s divorcing him but lets him see the kids anytime he wants.

He lost everything he had–even his high-dollar, American-made pickup truck–to pay for a top-drawer Belizean City attorney.

“I don’t know what to say, Joe.”

“I know, Mr. Paul. It sucks, huh?”

He’s now living in San Ignacio in a rented cottage not too far from my house so I had him come over to my casa last night to talk.

He gave me a big hug and I prayed with him as he was leaving and he broke down crying. I asked him to come to church with me some Sunday and he said he will. (He told me once he’s not a churchgoer and doesn’t like the church. Hypocrites and all that, you know.)

When he left I tried to imagine the pain of the stabbing victim’s family (died the next day of multiple stab wounds, it turns out) but hated to see the pain in my friend Joe.

It’s a violent, messy world but I always say everybody in the world ultimately wants the same thing.

It starts with an L.

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America: First in Greatness

People from the nation that is infinitely great are coming together for Harvey relief and God bless them.

I get all three of the network stations out of New York City, and the city’s Fox station. I’ve been channel surfing the Harvey coverage from up there the last couple of days and nights.

It’s interesting that all the stations have had a lot of film and feel-good stories of all kinds about common folks, from all the proverbial walks of life, from New York and Jersey who survived Sandy, who are down in Texas saving lives and animals in big numbers.

There were other stories of northeastern Sandy survivors having fundraisers or volunteering to assemble and send care kits and packages to the Harvey victims.

I’ve seen a lot of coverage out of New York and Jersey about people of many faith traditions–including Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and others–having prayer vigils and fund-raising or volunteer events, many of them ecumenical.

Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who’s always more blustery than the West Texas wind, was right when he said the people up there would step up and respond to Texas in her time of need in spite of bitter memories about the way certain Texas politicians in Congress betrayed them after Sandy.

That political story certainly wasn’t played up any from what I’ve seen the last couple of days, although Christie certainly got the face time he wanted nationally to blast Ted Cruz shortly after Harvey hit.

And I have to say, Ted Cruz, to his inexcusable shame, does keep lying through his teeth about his and Congress’s response to Sandy.

But I have to say also, as I’ve said many times since Trump rolled down the escalators, that America and Americans have never stopped being the greatest people on earth, warts and all.

Disasters bring out the love and the mettle in Americans and as long as there are Americans, America will be way greater than whatever country is in second place and God bless it.

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